Remember last September when the Steelers basically dominated the Bengals in an early season game in Cincy and then found themselves scrambling at the end? Yeah, that day didn’t end so well, as Carson Palmer hit WR Andre Caldwell with a four-yard TD pass with :14 seconds left for a dagger that sent the Steelers to 1-2 after the 23-20 loss.
Monday night it seemed to be an exact repeat, minus one very important fact. This time the defense stepped up and in the end, the Steelers hung on, winning 27-21 to move to 6-2 on the season, good for a share of the lead in the AFC North.
Sure you can get mad at the way the Steelers came inches away from blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, but it sure does feel better than a loss, which almost would have been impossible to imagine based on how the game played out for the first three and a half quarters.
“This is how the Steelers play ball,” defensive back Ike Taylor said. “We might get a blowout here and there. But we’re always in tough close ballgames. As a defense we just want to close them out. That’s what we did tonight.”
The defense did a good job holding the Bengals in check for most of the night, that is until the team built a 20-point lead at 27-7. It was from there the Bengals found their groove, scoring on a Palmer to Terrell Owens 27-yard score about a minute and a half after the Steelers went up 27-7.
Then after a bad Ben Roethlisberger pick, the Bengals again were able to drive down the field, and Cedric Benson went for a 1-yard score with 9:05 left to make it a six-point game.
The Steelers looked like they would put the game away, as Rashard Mendenhall rushed the team in position to kick what should have been a game-clinching field goal by Jeff Reed. But, as has happened all too many times this season, Reed pushed a 46-yard field goal wide with 3:59 left.
The Bengals put together a 12-play drive, getting when it was said and done to the Steelers 12, with a fourth-down and five play awaiting. Palmer tried to squeeze a ball into WR Jordan Shipley, and James Harrison and Ryan Clark did enough to knock it away, saving the win and allowing Steeler Nation to take a deep breath.
The Steelers dominated from the opening kickoff, as the Bengals fumbled and from there they put a quick drive together for a score as Mendenhall went in for a score to make it 7-0. After the Bengals next drive stalled, William Gay blocked Kevin Huber’s punt at the Cincinnati 30-yard line, the Steelers first blocked punt in two years.
They got a field goal from there to make it 10-0 with 7:46 left in the first quarter. They went up 20-7 at half after they got a TD from Hines Ward, and a 53-yard field goal from Reed with :05 seconds left in the half. It seemed like it would get even easier after a trick play made it 27-7.
Antwaan Randle El threw a 39-yard touchdown pass off a trick play to open the fourth quarter, building the 27-7 after Mike Wallace pulled in the TD for the lead, and all seemed well till Cincy suddenly got back into the game.
“The defense held strong,” said Roethlisberger, who was 17 of 27 for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mendenhall ran for 99 yards and a score, and Wallace had 5 grabs for 110 yards and the score.
A win is a win, and while it wasn’t pretty, the team will take it. As LaMarr Woodely put on his Facebook moments after the game – “Man that 1 felt good.. headin back home and already focused on NE!!”
The teams third straight prime-time game will be Sunday night at home vs the Patriots, a team that was just blown out on the road by Cleveland.